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How Does California Define Domestic Violence?

On average, nearly 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men across the country. Often, abuse takes many forms, and abusers may use a combination of tactics to control the person being abused.

California’s domestic violence laws seek to prevent both physical and non-physical abuse in familial or intimate relationships. Specifically, California Family Code Section 6211 defines domestic violence as abuse perpetrated against any of the following persons:

  1. a) A spouse or former spouse;
  2. b) A cohabitant or former cohabitant. A “cohabitant” means a person who regularly resides in the household. A “former cohabitant” means a person who formerly regularly resided in the household. Family Code Section 6209
  3. c) A person with whom the respondent is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship;
  4. d) A person with whom the respondent has had a child, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child;
  5. e) A child of a party
  6. f) Any other person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree.

Abuse is commonly defined as any intentional or reckless cause or attempt to cause bodily injury, sexual assault, or placing a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury. However, it is important to understand that California’s domestic violence laws protect those who are victims of non-physical violence as well. Thus, in California, abuse can be verbal, emotional, or psychological. Actions such as harassment, unwanted telephone calls, stalking and threats are likely to qualify as abuse under California’s definition of Domestic Violence.

If you are being abused, obtain a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. A Domestic Violence Restraining Order is a court order that helps protect individuals from abuse. If you do not qualify for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, you may seek Civil Harassment Restraining Order. If you are not sure what kind of restraining order you should get, speak with a knowledgeable, skilled, and compassionate lawyer who can better assist you.

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